It's fun to check in with Memeorandum now and then to see what the righties are linking to. Yesterday they were swarming like flies to a carcass to a story that appears to be phony.
I say "appears"; maybe it isn't. It's hard to tell, for reasons that I hope become apparent as you read this post. The point of this post is not to prove or disprove certain allegations, but to illustrate how, shall we say, uncritical reading and writing can create a lot of smoke without there necessarily being a fire.
So, here we go:
Did Al Franken's liberal radio network Air America divert city money for the elderly and inner-city children to itself? That's the question people should be asking this week after the revelation that the New York Department of Investigation is looking into whether hundreds of thousands of dollars were illegally transferred from a Bronx community center to Air America.
Now, this may be true, but it can't be verified through the Department of Investigation web site. And as I examined various other stories it seems no one has verified this claim with the D of I directly. So how does the Washington Times know about this outrage? From "sources quoted anonymously by the Bronx News," it says.
I live about a ten minutes' drive from the Bronx and wasn't aware there is a Bronx News. Nor could I find the Bronx News through Google. There is a Bronx Times, and the Bronx Times recently carried a story about the legal difficulties of this same community center, the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club, but there was no mention in that story of Air America.
So for the moment, put aside the Bronx News, which may or may not exist. What about the other sources? "The New York Daily News buried an item at the end of a column of news briefs," says the Washington Times. I will return to the Daily News in a moment. The Washington Times also says,
We only found out about it through the reporting of Brian Maloney, who pieced a story together on his blog "The Radio Equalizer" which was picked up by syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin.
OK, now we're getting somewhere. So I googled for Brian Maloney--A talk host since 1993, Time Magazine compared Brian Maloney to Rush Limbaugh--and found Maloney's version of the story-- "Air America's Dirty Dough."
What happens when the mainstream media, after years of seething over conservative talk radio's success, discover its alternative got diverted public funds, earmarked instead for inner-city youth and seniors?
The answer, with one key exception: they pretend it didn't happen.
Yes, only because of a New York Daily News tidbit do we know that Bronx-based Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club nearly shut down major programs recently, because almost $500,000 in governmental grant money was instead diverted to Air America's liberal radio network.
I'm sure the Air America gang would be astonished to find out they are "mainstream media's alternative" to conservative talk radio, but let's go on ... Here's the "tidbit":
In its initial announcement, the DOI said it was probing allegations that program officials "approved significant inappropriate transactions and falsified documents that were submitted to various city agencies."
According to published reports, the allegations involve Charles Rosen, the founder of Gloria Wise who has stepped down as executive director, investing city contract funds in Air America Radio, the liberal talk radio network.
Evan Cohen, Air America's former chairman, had served as Gloria Wise's director of development.
I emphasized the "published reports" line because we're going to investigate what those "published reports" are.
If you were to read this paragraph carelessly, you would think that the Department of Investigation is investigating Air America. But that's not what it says; it says the D of I is investigating the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club. In addition, published reports (from where?) say that Air America is involved.
On the hunt for the "published reports"-- in this paragraph, Maloney provides his chief source of information:
On July 5, for example, a community newspaper called the Gotham Gazette published a story by Michael Horowitz that laid out the evolving scandal in detail. Why wasn't this on the AP wire straightaway?
Maloney's link leads to a blank page, but I'm reasonably sure this is the story he's talking about. In "Youth Funds Diverted to Liberal Radio Station," Michael Horowitz of the elusive Bronx News explains what he learned from "unidentified informed sources."
The Bronx News has learned, through informed sources, that the diversion of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club in Co-op City to the liberal Air America Radio is at the center of the city's probe of corruption at the local club.
Informed sources from where? The NYC Department of Investigation? The Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club? The bar across the street? A ouija board? Michael Horowitz's butt? Horowitz never says. However, Horowitz continues,
At the center of the investigation, in addition to Charles Rosen, the charismatic leader of the local club for the last 15 years, is Evan Cohen, who resigned, under fire, as chairman of Air America Radio shortly after its start as an alternative to conservative talk radio.
Cohen, at the time the alleged transfers of funds from the Gloria Wise Club to Air America took place, was also the director of Development for the local boys' and girls' club, the News has learned.
You can read more about Evan Cohen at Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, Cohen resigned from (or was forced out of) his association with Air America Radio because Air America believed Cohen's numbers weren't crunching. So, it is possible (unlike rightie bloggers, I like to make a distinction between conjecture and evidence) that Air America and the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club were both victims of money mishandling by Cohen.
Remarkably, the most damning bit of evidence I've found so far comes from Air America itself. This statement says the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club gave money to Progress Media, Evan Cohen's company. And here's what Wikipedia says about that:
Air America was started as part of Progress Media, which said it had amassed $30 million in venture capital prior to its debut, a claim which later turned out to be untrue (only $6 million was initially collected). Two individuals from Guam, Rex Sorensen and Evan Montvel Cohen, were involved in raising the capital but denied any wrongdoing. Cohen had an unusual history for his position in a progressive-left radio network since he was a Republican political operative in Guam and former chief of staff for Republican Governor Tommy Tanaka. Cohen dismissed concerns by saying he was a committed "progressive" and that Republicans in Guam "are left of Paul Wellstone." It was reported that Cohen had unpaid business debts in Guam, although Cohen denies this. Tommy Tanaka pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2003.
What appears to have happened--and, note, this is conjecture again--is that the execs at Gloria Wise funneled money into Progress Media that they shouldn't have funneled. And what the righties and Michael Horowitz seem to have done is treat "Progress Media" and "Air America Radio" as synonyms, even though the two entities parted company over a year ago. Since everyone is a bit vague as to when this alleged funneling occurred, I can't tell whether it happened while AAR was still part of Progress Media, or after. And even if it was while, since AAR was (I believe) a subsidiary of PM and not the entire company, it doesn't necessarily follow that funds received by PM went to AAR.
As I said at the start of this post, I'm not attempting to prove or disprove the allegations. I'm just trying to track down where the allegations are coming from and how solidly they are sourced.
Hugh Hewitt is all over this story and provides a number of links. For example, in this post Hewitt links to a Form 990 filed by the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club for the period ending Jne 2003. I looked at every page; nothing about Air America. But, by golly, it's a link to a real document. That Hewitt is one crack investigator.
In this post, Hewitt writes,
The Philly Inquirer did have this story on AA last month, and note that it does not distinguish between the Air America of spring 2004 and Air America of today. That's because it doesn't matter who "borrowed" the money from the kids and the Alzheimer's patients. It matters where the money went --which was into Al Franken's already well lined pockets, as well as the pockets of everyone else receiving Air America paychecks at the time of the diversion.
It took some doing to get through the Philly Inquirer's highly annoying registration firewall, but I finally did. The story, posted on July 28 by Beth Gillin, Inquirer Staff Writer, is all about Air America's struggle to establish itself and grow ratings, and about how it isn't anywhere close to beating out rightie Big Mouths like Rush Limbaugh. But there's nothing in this story about Progress Media, the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club or any other possibly illegal misuse of money.
In other words, Hewitt links to something that one might assume supports what he says, but it doesn't.
Mr. Hewitt continues,
Here is the web site for the Gloria Wise Community Center. Here's the link to the Center's Camp Air America. What do campers learn? Creative accounting.
Hewitt doesn't actually link to Camp Air America, btw. But here is the link. You can see an announcement that Morning Sedition would be raising money for the camp this June and July. Air America says,
We at Air America Radio strongly believe in the mission of Boys and Girls Clubs to provide a safe and nurturing place for young people to learn and grow. As a result, we recently allowed the same club, Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club, to use our name in a fundraising effort for a summer camp for children in their community.
The funding for Camp Air America was raised and collected entirely by the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club, and Air America promoted the camp on air and urged support for it. A link on our web site sent those interested in contributing to the camp to the Gloria Wise web site. Regrettably, the camp did not survive the closure of the Gloria Wise organization. We have offered any individuals who contributed to the camp as a result of Air America's promotion the option of a refund paid for by Air America Radio and the Club offered the alternative option of having their donation redirected to Kip's Bay Boys and Girls Club.
Not exactly a smoking gun; more like an empty water pistol.
BTW, the camp also claimed to be partnered with Coca Cola, Microsoft, and a whole lot of other organizations and foundations that (I assume) donated money or something. By Hewitt's logic, all of these companies and organizations are also under investigation.
Here's Hewitt's trump card:
CNN's "Inside Politics" blog sp[ecialists [sic] Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner spent the entire second segment of today's show on Air America's woes.
And here's the bit of CNN transcript Hewitt finds significant (emphasis added by me):
Here's the transcript of the CNN "Inside Politcs" segment on Air America's Children's Crusade:
JOHNS: Air America Radio is attracting a lot of attention from bloggers today. For more on that, let's check in with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton, and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter -- Jacki.
SCHECHNER: Hi, Joe.
Well, many of the conservative bloggers are talking about a New York investigation into the possible diversion of funds from an inner city Boys and Girls Club to the liberal radio station Air America. This started with Brian Maloney over at TheRadioEqualizer.blogspot.com.
He picked up a small mention as part of a larger article in the "New York Daily News." And as part of that article, it turns out that the former CEO of Air America was also on the board of that Boys and Girls Club. And that's where the investigation continues right now into what sort of diversion of funds may have taken place.
TATTON: Working with Brian Maloney on the store is Michele Malkin at MicheleMalkin.com. She's been really pushing it. This is a blogger driven story that she feels is not getting enough coverage in the mainstream media.
Michele has been linking to statements put out from Air America on this case. What they're essentially saying is the funds in question that are being investigated were to previous business owners of Air America, that they have nothing to do with those preview business owners and so they are not responsible for what's going on here.
The debate carrying on at DailyKos.com, whether webmaster of Air America, that's Adam Mordecai, is posting the most recent statement saying that they have no obligation to the previous business owners, but their still working with the Boys and Girls Club. And very much the Boys and Girls Club very much has the support of Air America.
SCHECHNER: That did not stop the conservative blogs from posting all sorts of headlines like "Al Franken Steals Money From Kids and Old Folks" or things like JackLewis.net, "Liberals Stealing From Poor Kids." They really, you could take your pick of blogs on this one. That sort of vein.
But over at the larger blogs like WhizbangBlog.com, they're doing what Michele Malkin and what Brian are doing, and they're looking deeper into the statement from Air America saying whatever the answers are at this point, it's not enough for them. And they are going to continue to push the investigation.
Joe, we will send it back to you.
Let's recap. What do we have so far? All allegations that the allegedly pilfered Gloria Wise money went to Air America Radio are based on one, and only one, source: Michael Horowitz in the prestigious, if ephemeral, Bronx News. And Horowitz got his information from "informed sources" of undetermined origin.
And, folks, that's it. Brian Maloney picked up Horowitz, and Hewitt and Michelle Malkin picked up Maloney, and by means of much huffing and puffing and overheated rhetoric (Malkin: "Will Air America's self-proclaimed champions of the poor and downtrodden--Franken? Garafolo? Springer?--touch this story with a ten-foot pole?") the righties manage to create much smoke without any visible fire. The rightie bloggers link to each other's allegations as "proof"; they link to anything they can find that mentions Air America in a negative light as "proof"; but in fact nothing has been made public that supports Malkin's claim ...
Air America is being investigated in New York for diverting federal/local funds--possibly "hundreds of thousands of dollars"--meant for inner-city kids and senior into the station's coffers.
...other than the "informed sources" quoted by Michael Horowitz in the Bronx News.
The Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club is being investigated, yes. I infer that Progress Media is involved. But no authoritative source has said that Air America is being investigated. Maybe it is, but you can't tell that from the sources provided by the righties.
Here is another part of Air America's response to the allegation:
If the allegations of mismanagement and corruption at Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club are true, it is absolutely disgraceful.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal and the HBO Documentary, Left of the Dial, the company that the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club officials gave money to, Progress Media, has been defunct since May 2004. That company was run at the time by Evan Cohen who has not had any involvement in Air America Radio since May 2004.
The current owners of Air America Radio have no obligation to Progress Media,s business activities. We are very disturbed that Air America Radio's good name could be associated with a reduction in services for young people, which is why we agreed months ago to fully compensate the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club as a result of this transaction.
The literacy challenged Brian Maloney interprets the statement above as an admission of guilt. And if AAR washed their hands of the mess entirely, I'm sure Maloney would be whining that AAR was shirking its responsibilities.
Can we say this allegation is "undersourced"? I believe we can.
Yesterday a number of rightie bloggers linked to the Washington Times editorial quoted at the beginning of this post, creating quite a buzz. Let's check in with The Anchoress:
If you have not been following the story of how Air America sayed on the air by apparently using money meant for children and the elderly well, where have you been?
I admit when the story first broke, I figured it would be yet another story wherein the liberal/left perps get a free ride from the press (ala Sandy Berger) as the story disappears. And that may still happen...as it stands right now, the MSM has NOT covered any of this. But right now I'd say a blogswarm is begun, and that Al Franken (who is considering running for public office) has a few questions to answer along the "what did he know and when did he know it" lines.
Go-to bloggers on this are Brian Maloney (just keep scrolling down) who Hugh Hewitt says "owns" the story, along with Ed Morrissey, Michelle Malkin, Macho Nachos, Mark in Mexico, (who has a MAJOR link compilation) Wizbang, LaShawn and, of course, Hugh Hewitt.
And this fellow compiled a longer list of links.
But if you follow the links, what you find is that they're all just linking to each others' allegations, and the allegations are ultimately all based on the one, single, lamely substantiated source--Michael Horowitz of the Bronx News.
So, I'm fixing to send a story to one of those "newspapers" full of coupons that get stuffed into my mailbox every week about how Karl Rove is an Iranian counterspy, and we leftie bloggers can all link to that and each other and call it a "swarm." And maybe we'll get mentioned on CNN! Whatta ya say?
UPDATE: The disappointingly pathetic Commissar of The Politboro Diktat has called me a "liar" because he was able to find the Bronx News by googling. Not that the Bronx News has it's own web site, mind you, because it doesn't, and that was my point. He found the Bronx News in some online directory.
Some people here on Kos Diaries found the same thing yesterday. One of them called the phone number. Nobody there. Real newspapers have staff in the office on Saturday.
I still haven't gotten my hands on a copy of The Bronx News, but that will be one of my projects next week. I suspect strongly it's an advertising circular.
But this just exemplifies the misdirection technique Righties are so good at. The Commissar does not address or disprove my point, which is that this entire "swarm" is based on the word of ONE writer, published in a very minor "newspaper," and this one writer says he got the information from two anonymous "informed sources" of unspecified origin. All other news stories that claim Air America is under investigation are basing this claim on the Horowitz article.
Lordy, righties get more and more pathetic every minute, don't they?